As you get older you keep hearing or seeing or reading stuff that makes you think - hang on I've seen/heard/read something like that before - whether it's fashion (No! Please do NOT bring back flares!), music (whether intentionally as in sampling or "unintentionally" as in My Sweet Lord and others) or books and articles about business.
Right at the end of the last millenium - yep you read that right - the last millenium, before we'd ever heard of "Millenials" (although the term was first coined back in 1987 - by William Strauss and Neil Howe) there were a number of talented individuals who were thinking and writing about how business needed to change. Some of them like Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Riddestrale wrote books about how "Business as usual was uninspired, talent doesn't want to work there and people don't want to shop there" (I can no longer find the original edition - this is the 4th version of the book). Others like Gary Hamel talked about "Leading the Revolution" while Joseph Pine and James Gilmore wrote about the "Experience Economy" - work is theatre and every business a stage.
My personal hero Rolf Jensen at the Copenhagen of future Studies wrote about "The Dream Society" - he saw that in an age where information was ubiquitous those who could turn information into simple stories were the most valuable people. I remember the publication of the "Cluetrain Manifesto" and how "obvious" that seemed - yet few people really got it! I was lucky enough to go to a Fast Company organised talk by Guy Kawasaki's about his Rules for Revolutionaries - clearly someone who "got it"!
There were others, too numerous to mention here, but these are the key thinkers who formed the background of my personal development around work, business and life and, more importantly, they still do today!
For the past 14 years I've been working in an environment which is a complete opposite to the dynamic and invigorating world my thought leaders set out as the future - but it hasn't stopped me holding true to my beliefs and hoping that maybe, one day, things might change :)
Well thanks to an excellent article on inc.com by the CEO of Hootsuite - Ryan Holmes - called "Move over, Millenials" I've now realised that the themes, that I've held true for so long, are coming back into business fashion - maybe they never really went away!!
It seems that during my "dark ages" period thinkers have continued to think - which is nice - and bless him, Ryan has alerted me to the writings of one Brian Solis and anyone who can get the following into his work is ok by me...
“There’s an old quote by Leo Tolstoy that says, ‘We all talk of change, but none of us talk of changing ourselves.’
His website covering "The end of business as usual" - sound similar to the funky Business gurus' "Business as usual was uninspired..."? Yep thought so :)
Hmmm and wasn't the same phrase "The end of business of usual" prominently positioned on the front cover of the Cluetrain Manifesto?
He's also using some research from Nielsen which was published back in 2010 about the emergence of "Generation C" - and it's good stuff, and he's been banging on about it for at least 6 years - but it isn't actually telling us anything more than the Cluetrain Manifesto did way, way back, before the emergence of all these social media.
And do you remember what Seth Godin said about that?
If you don't think you need this book to better understand your market, that's your second mistake!
I found this in a document I wrote for my current employers back in 2014...
Companies have segmented their customers into groups based on age, sex, income, and other demographics for many years, an approach which works best when you are able to develop and market discrete products and services for those segments - a “Push” approach – “tell them and they will come”.
Increasingly customers are more discriminating, they are exposed to more marketing, and more hype and more “buy me” messages. Since the post war baby boom they have gone on a journey driven by technological, economic and social change.
Successful companies must deal with the idealism then scepticism, and cynicism that best describes modern generations. Understanding and catering for their differing mindsets is key to engaging with them.
...and yep it wasn't acted upon. But hey, let's be positive - could it be that things are about to change - will those ideas from the last millenium finally get to be understood now that we're onto Generation "C"?
Let's get back to Ryan Holmes article, helpfully it contains some key facts we need to know about Gen C and ways that companies can better reach and understand this key group!!
Well back in 2004 it was theorised that "C" meant content and it was all about their ability to create and share it. However 14 years on and I'd agree with Solis and Holmes when they say fundamentally the "C" means "Connectivity" - how these people embrace technology to enable their "digital lifestyles".
All the previous "Generations" are delimited by the date of birth - what range do they fall into? Well, I love this next bit - Here's the critical fact: Gen C isn't an age group at all. It's a mindset.
"What sets Gen C apart is connectivity, in its fullest sense. Members are not merely online - they're active and engaged in online communities, from the familiar social networks to product review sites. They're not just consuming content, they're creating and curating it."
They "live" on digital media - phone, tablet, pc, Mac - to the detriment of traditional media channels such TV and Radio. It's their choice as to how and when they interact - and much of that is going to be on the basis of information they've received or gathered from their social media accounts!
So, for a business, to reach them you have to do it on their terms. And to get the holy grail - a "word-of-mouth" recommendation on Facebook, a creative meme that goes viral on Twitter or a thumbs up from a trusted influencer - you need to work really hard and be incredibly creative AND timely - remember they love good content AND their attention span is about the size of a gnat's!
You have been warned, don't be the next House of Fraser, reinvention is vital, storytelling in just a few words is critical and boy you've gotta be fast - hesitate and you've missed it, just like last time :)